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Insurgency: Sandstorm is out now

Joining the crowded ranks of tactical shooters set in the eternal desert war that has dominated this generation, Insurgency: Sandstorm is out now. New World Interactive’s team shooter aims to be realistic without being pointlessly fiddly. Realistic ballistics and some complex reloading mechanics are backed up by simple controls and twitchy, responsive movement. Plus, if you’re not into Counter-Strike or Battlefield-inspired competitive play (there’s maps for either scale), there’s a cooperative mode pitting a small squad against waves of AI grunts. The launch trailer lies below.

While I’ve only had a chance to play a couple rounds of Insurgency: Sandstorm, players worried about its gritty realism making it inaccessible shouldn’t be too concerned. It’s slightly more complex than Counter-Strike, but not by far. Mostly, it feels like a shorter-ranged Red Orchestra, with a lot of room-to-room close combat. If you’re worried about diving into competitive play, there’s also a co-op mode where you fight your way across the map against waves of AI enemies which can be played solo with some (mostly capable) friendly bots. Not quite the grand story mode originally planned, but it’s nice to have something.

Probably the biggest difference between this and most tactical shooters is that your gun doesn’t always point straight forward unless you aim down the sights. A bit like Arma or Red Orchestra, your actual ‘crosshair’ is a floating invisible point somewhere on the screen, wherever your gun is physically pointed. While it’s not too hard to aim from the hip in close combat, the lack of depth perception makes it useless for anything outdoors, so you’ll want to be scoping out your targets before pulling the trigger. There’s no indicator for hits other than your target possibly screaming before they drop, so confirming kills is a thing.

From the little bit I’ve played, it’s good-looking, solid-feeling stuff. There’s a heft and weight to it without feeling unwieldy, and the audio is a cut above, with some good automatic vocal barks used by the soldiers. The guns (while a bit too boringly realistic for me) feel right too, and very deadly. While not my particular cup of tea (the latest Earth Defense Force game is high on my weekend shooter list), I can appreciate that this is a good take on a breed of shooter that hasn’t been much in vogue lately, at least at first blush.

Insurgency: Sandstorm is out now, and can be found on Steam and Humble for £23.39/$26.99/€26.99, plus an extra 10% discount if you own the original Insurgency. Even if it’s not your genre, you may well do – it’s been a featured Steam giveaway before. It’s published by Focus Home Interactive.

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Dominic Tarason

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